February 22, 2011 - Amy Goodman interview with Noam Chomsky
"Chomsky: "What has to be done is what's happening in Madison, or Tahrir Square. If there's mass popular opposition, any political leader is going to have to respond."
We continue our conversation with world-renowned public intellectual, MIT Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, Noam Chomsky.
NOAM CHOMSKY: We were talking about unions before. Union busting is criminal activity by the government, because they’re saying, "You can go ahead and do it; we’re not going to apply the laws," effectively. And the COINTELPRO, which you mentioned, is actually the worst systematic and extended violation of basic civil rights by the federal government. It maybe compares with Wilson’s Red Scare. But COINTELPRO went on from the late ’50 right through all of the ’60s; it finally ended, at least theoretically ended, when the courts terminated it in the early ’70s. And it was serious.
It started, as is everything, going after the Communist Party, then the Puerto Rican Independence Party. Then it extended—the women’s movement, the New Left, but particularly black nationalists. And it ended up—didn’t end up, but one of the events was a straight Gestapo-style assassination of two black organizers, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, literally. The FBI set up the assassination. The Chicago police actually carried it out, broke into the apartment at 4:00 in the morning and murdered them. Fake information that came from the FBI about arms stores and so on. There was almost nothing about it. In fact, the information about this, remarkably, was released at about the same time as Watergate. I mean, as compared with this, Watergate was a tea party. There was nothing, you know?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, my feeling—actually, I had the same feeling in 2008. I’m not disillusioned, because I didn’t have any expectations, just looking at the funding, looking at his background. Actually, I wrote about it before the primaries even. But nevertheless, you know, when I was asked in 2008, "Who should you vote for?" my own feeling was—and it will be next time—that if you’re in a swing state, you better vote against the prehistoric monsters, because they’re going to cause much more trouble.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. There has been a huge attack against private sector unions. Actually, that’s been going on since the Second World War. After the Second World War, business was terrified about the radicalization of the country during the Depression and then the war, and it started right off—Taft-Hartley was 1947—huge propaganda campaigns to demonize unions. It really—and it continued until you get to the Reagan administration.
Reagan was extreme. Beginning of his administration, one of the first things was to call in scabs—hadn’t been done for a long time, and it’s illegal in most countries—in the air controller strike. Reagan essentially—by "Reagan," I mean his administration; I don’t know what he knew—but they basically told the business world that they’re not going to apply the labor laws. So, that means you can break unions any way you like. And in fact, the number of firing of union organizers, illegal firing, I think probably tripled during the Reagan years.
“Democracy Uprising” in the U.S.A.?: Noam Chomsky on Wisconsin’s Resistance to Assault on Public Sector, the Obama-Sanctioned Crackdown on Activists, and the Distorted Legacy of Ronald Reagan
World-renowned public intellectual Noam Chomsky discusses several domestic issues in the United States, including the protests in defense of public sector employees and unions in Wisconsin, how the U.S. deification of former President Ronald Reagan resembles North Korea, and the crackdown on political activists with anti-terror laws and FBI raids. [includes rush transcript]
Filed under U.S. Labor Protests
Noam Chomsky, MIT professor emeritus of linguistics and author.
- Billionaire Right-Wing Koch Brothers Fund Wisconsin Governor Campaign and Anti-Union Push
- “Today is a Serious Showdown”: Thousands Occupy Wisconsin Capitol Building Ahead of Anti-Union Vote
- Matt Taibbi: "Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?"
- Labor Protests to Defend Collective Bargaining Rights Spread to Ohio
- "We Have a Fire in the House of Labor. We Are Here to Put it Out": Wisconsin Firefighters and Police Officers Join Massive Protests Against Anti-Union Bill
This transcript is available free of charge. However, donations help us provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.
AMY GOODMAN: This month is the 15th anniversary of Democracy Now! on the air, and it’s a real privilege to have MIT professor, analyst, world-renowned political dissident, linguist, Noam Chomsky with us. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan Gonzalez, and we’ve been together for this whole 15 years, Juan. It’s really been quite an amazing journey.
As we talk about this revolution that’s rolling across the Middle East, we put out to our listeners and viewers on Facebook last night that, Noam, you were going to be in. And so, people were sending in their comments and questions. We asked, on Facebook and Twitter, to send us questions. Here is one of the questions.
RYAN ADSERIAS: Hello, Professor Chomsky. My name is Ryan Adserias, and I’m a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and also the child of a long line of working-class union folks. I don’t know if you’ve been noticing, but we’ve been holding a lot of protests and rallies here in our capital to protest Governor Scott Walker’s attempt to break collective bargaining rights that Wisconsin workers worked hard for over 50 years ago and have enjoyed ever since. We closed all the schools around here for tomorrow—today and tomorrow, actually. The teaching assistants here at the university are staging teach-outs. The undergraduates are walking out of class to show solidarity. And all of this is because our governor and governors all around the country are proposing legislation that’s going to end collective bargaining and really break the unions. I’ve also been noticing that there’s not a whole lot of national representation of our struggle and our movement, and it’s really been troubling me. So my question to you is, how exactly is it that we can get the attention of our national Democratic and progressive leaders to speak out against these measures and to help end union busting here in the United States?
NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s very interesting. The reason why you can’t get Democratic leaders to join is because they agree. They are also trying to destroy the unions. In fact, if you take a look at—take, say, the lame-duck session. The great achievement in the lame-duck session for which Obama is greatly praised by Democratic Party leaders is that they achieved bipartisan agreement on several measures. The most important one was the tax cut. And the issue in the tax cut—there was only one issue—should there be a tax cut for the very rich? The population was overwhelmingly against it, I think about two to one. There wasn’t even a discussion of it, they just gave it away. And the very same time, the less noticed was that Obama declared a tax increase for federal workers. Now, it wasn’t called a "tax increase"; it’s called a "freeze." But if you think for 30 seconds, a freeze on pay for a federal workers is fiscally identical to a tax increase for federal workers. And when you extend it for five years, as he said later, that means a decrease, because of population growth, inflation and so on. So he basically declared an increase in taxes for federal workers at the same time that there’s a tax decrease for the very rich.
And there’s been a wave of propaganda over the last couple of months, which is pretty impressive to watch, trying to deflect attention away from those who actually created the economic crisis, like Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, their associates in the government who—Federal Reserve and others—let all this go on and helped it. There’s a—to switch attention away from them to the people really responsible for the crisis—teachers, police, firefighters, sanitation workers, their huge pensions, their incredible healthcare benefits, Cadillac healthcare benefits, and their unions, who are the real villains, the ones who are robbing the taxpayer by making sure that policemen may not starve when they retire. And this is pretty amazing, like right in the middle of the Madison affair, which is critical.
Read more at www.democracynow.org
The CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, got a $12.5 million bonus, and his base pay was more than tripled. Well, that means he—the rules of corporate governments have been modified in the last 30 years by the U.S. government to allow the chief executive officer to pretty much set their own salaries. There’s various ways in which this has been done, but it’s government policy. And one of the effects of it is—people talk about inequality, but what’s a little less recognized is that although there is extreme inequality, it’s mostly because of the top tiny fraction of the population, so like a fraction of one percent of the population, their wealth has just shot through the stratosphere. You go down to the—you know, the next 10 percent are doing pretty well, but it’s not off the spectrum. And this is by design.